The Paper Chase with The Purple Church and Luna Moth
9 p.m. Monday
8911 N. Western
There aren't many bands like The Paper Chase. If most acts swerve away from the danger and terror of life, at best dealing it a glancing blow, the Dallas quartet engages in more of a whiteknuckle game of chicken, revving up for a head-on collision with reality.
The Paper Chase is musically fraught with jagged, heart-like percussive pulses; dramatic keyboard flourishes; ominous, low-end throb; and scabrous peals of dissonant, post-punk guitars. The music shrouds songs consumed with the idea of control and its kissing cousin, paranoia.
Amid the messy, clanging chaos, front man John Congleton visits the anxious irrational fears that rule our lives, seeking (mostly) to disarm them by exposing their corruptive, unreasonable hold on our attention. This strategy reaches its apogee with the latest album, 2009's "Someday This Could All Be Yours, Vol. I," which focuses on a variety of natural disasters, including "The Common Cold (The Epidemic)," "I'm Going to Heaven With or Without You (The Forest Fire)," and "This Is Only a Test (The Tornado)."
"There's these sort of illusions and beliefs that were forced upon me and people like me growing up, and it's like you become an adult and you realize a lot of that was horseshit, and you kind of develop your own way of looking at things," Congleton said. "You know what you're really faced with, but you're always going to have this weird framework that's there from your childhood."
While he acknowledged that the pitched nature of The Paper Chase's music, with its harrowing sound samples stitched into songs and intros, only amplifies the creeping sense of insanity, he struggles with the fact that some people describe the music as depressing.
"I don't mind if people find it frightening. It's the depressing aspect that bums me out, because to me, it sounds more life-affirming than depressing," he said. "I understand people maybe think I'm crazy. But I've always tried to put it with a sardonic, wry sense of humor. If you take everything at face value, then you're kind of not paying attention."
Congleton sees the gravitation toward fear and ill-fated attempts to control one's environment as a kind of vestigial survival mechanism whose use mankind has effectively outgrown.
"Not too long ago, there was a definite fear of a lion eating your ass. That was always there. There were predators," he said. "We're left with this residual, what-do-I-do-with-this feeling. There's a reason why we like horror movies, roller coasters and things like that."
Congleton began writing "Someday" on his own, as a potential side project at a time during which he felt the energy for The Paper Chase might be petering out. The drummer left, which might have signaled the end, but the bandmates brought in drummer Jason Garner, who reinvigorated them.
"He had a lot of enthusiasm and really liked the music and was very serious about playing the drums," Congleton said. "I got excited about it again and said, 'Well, you know, I've got these songs. Let's make a record.'"
But it wasn't just one record. He had written enough songs for two, each separated by an overarching theme. Whereas "Vol. I" focuses on disaster, the forthcoming second installment explores the aftermath.
"It's definitely more about looking around at the damage," he said. "You can expect it to be much more mellow."
There's as yet no date set for that album's release. It has, after all, not even been a year, and Congleton has enough to keep him busy with his thriving career as a Grammy-nominated producer. He's produced tracks for Explosions in the Sky, Black Tie Dynasty, Modest Mouse and The Polyphonic Spree. He recently finished up work on a new Clinic album, several songs with The Walkmen, and the third disc from terrific upstarts Land of Talk. He's also worked with R. Kelly and U2's Bono.
"The most talented people I've ever worked with are usually the oddest. And I don't mind that," Congleton said. "Once you realize you have to just deal with these strange personalities, then you can find a lot of fun in it. It's a lot of fun if you realize you'll probably never meet anybody like this again. Just enjoy it." "Chris Parker